- AlterNet Editor's Note: When harmful beliefs plague a population, you can bet that the 1% is benefiting. This article is part of a new AlterNet series, "Capitalism Unmasked," edited by Lynn Parramore and produced in partnership with author Douglas Smith and Econ4 to expose the myths and lies of unbridled capitalism and show the way to a better future.
- Previously in this series
- Approaching the End of Human History?
- Austerity, Debt & Environmental Degradation
- George Carlin | “The Planet Is Fine”
Richard Smith, Institute for Policy Research & Development
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2013/07/02 | Sleepwalking to extinction
When, on May 10th, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in millions of years, a sense of dread spread around the world and not only among climate scientists. CO2 emissions have been relentlessly climbing since Charles David Keeling first set up his tracking station near the summit of Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958 to monitor average daily global CO2 levels. At that time, CO2 concentrations registered 315ppm. CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have been relentlessly climbing ever since and, as the records show, temperatures rises will follow. For all the climate summits, the promises of “voluntary restraint,” the carbon trading and carbon taxes, the growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations has not just been relentless, it has been accelerating in what scientists have dubbed the “Keeling Curve”. In the early 1960s, CO2ppm concentrations in the atmosphere grew by 0.7ppm per year. In recent decades, especially as China has industrialized, the growth rate has tripled to 2.1ppm per year. In just the first 17 weeks of 2013, CO2 levels jumped by 2.74ppm compared to last year -- “the biggest increase since benchmark monitoring stations high on the Hawaiian volcano of Mauna Loa began taking measurements in 1958.”1 Carbon concentrations have not been this high since the Pliocene period, between 3m and 5m years ago, when global average temperatures were 3 or 4C hotter than today, the Arctic was ice-free, sea levels were about 40m higher, jungles covered northern Canada, while Florida was under water, along with coastal locations we now call New York city, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and many others. Crossing this threshold has fueled fears that we are fast approaching “tipping points” – melting of the subarctic tundra or thawing and releasing the vast quantities of methane in the Arctic sea bottom – that will accelerate global warming beyond any human capacity to stop it: “I wish it weren't true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400-ppm level without losing a beat," said Scripps Institute geochemist Ralph Keeling whose father Charles Keeling set up the first monitoring stations in 1958: “At this pace, we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.” “It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.2
Richard Smith: Institute for Policy Research & Development Research Associate, ecological historian
Full story …
Previously in this series:
Elites say that we need inequality to encourage the rich to invest and the creative to invent. That’s working out well — for 1% pooches.
The long-running General Electric slogan sums up what capitalist cheerleaders love to say about markets: "We bring good things to life."
The awful experience of the Great Depression made clear to many economists and laymen alike that credit is at the heart of a functioning capitalist system. Without access to credit, many businesses die and many individuals and households run out of money and go bankrupt.
The symbol of capitalism was lately a vampire. Enter the CEO with nipple clamps.
Approaching the End of Human History? Noam Chomsky, In These Times <>
- The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.
- The short, strange era of human civilization may be drawing to a close.
- The UN’s New Report on Global Warming Is the Most Terrifying Yet
- 5 Crucial Lessons for the Left From Naomi Klein’s New Book
Austerity, Debt & Environmental Degradation, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance
- Our individual struggles are against system-wide problems and when the people are united, we can win. Let’s keep building solidarity and unity of action so the muscle of people power grows.
- The fracking struggle: a distorted reflection of America’s decomposing democracy
George Carlin | “The Planet Is Fine”, George Carlin, Gospel of Reason
There is nothing wrong with the planet. Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The people are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the conceit to think that somehow we’re a threat? That somehow we’re gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that’s just a-floatin’ around the sun?